Local 44: A Review

Finding vegan-friendly restaurants is tricky.- and usually when I say that, people raise an eyebrow. “Well, can’t you just have salad?,” is always the first question. Of course the answer is yes, but when I go out to dinner I want it to be special! Imagine if every time you went out to eat you had to eat a hamburger- wouldn’t it rather detract from the whole experience after a while? Even more frustrating is that expectation- that because my choices usually differ from the majority, they aren’t important enough to take into consideration. Eventually I am going to do a post on why I became a vegan, and how it has changed since I first gave up animal products.

Being vegan is often viewed as a narrow way of eating- because I don’t eat anything animal-based, I must not have very many options when it comes to my diet. I would like to debunk this myth here and now- honestly, I have never in my life eaten a wider variety of foods than I do at present. Eliminating the foods that to so many people are staples in their diet forced me to discover new staples- healthier alternatives which would still fulfill my nutritional needs. I have to put forethought into my meals, and that encouraged me to try new foods (many of which have become favorites) that I might not have ever tried. I would have been too busy playing it safe with every meal instead of venturing outside of the proverbial icebox.

That being said, when I find a restaurant that offers interesting vegan options, I get excited! Any restaurant that will take on a seitan reuben is definitely worth a visit. Which brings me to…

Local 44! A funky little beer bar with a varied menu, this place was recommended to me by several people (both veg and not) around the Philly area. It sits on the corner of 44th and Spruce in a beautiful area of West Philly.

Houses across the street covered in ivy. GORGEOUS. All of the surrounding blocks had this same look. I never even knew these parts of Philadelphia existed! I feel like I am learning new things about this city every day.

The restaurant was really funky. The door opened up into the bar area, but there was an additional room with plenty of seating next door. We sat at a booth in front of a big window looking out onto the street. The furniture was all very dark wood, but it was so comfortable and inviting, There were different odd diagrams on the backs of the menus- mine was for a stove pilot? Luis had instructions on how to start a small business.

As far as the food, there were plenty of options for both Luis and myself, and all of the vegetarian and vegan options were clearly marked with two distinct symbols. Definitely not your run-of-the-mill bar food; buffalo tofu hoagie, anyone? The thing that I liked most about this place was that all of the options sounded good, and they didn’t fall back on a frozen veggie burger and call it “veg-friendly.” They also don’t make a huge deal out of having vegan options, so I’m wondering if that area of the city is geared more toward that population in general? If anyone knows, speak up!

We started with the fried green beans with french onion dip, putting to rest the myth that all vegan food is healthy! Seriously, these things were greasy-delicious and totally indulgent. Needless to say, a run was in order later that night.

I need to interject and quickly say how great the kids were. The Maya exhibit ended at 3:35, and I had been at the dentist all morning, so the only nap time they had gotten was about an hour in the car on our way into the city. Then they were paraded through a museum, and Tuesday had been HOT. Yet somehow they were remarkably well-behaved all through lunch.

I think they were having a lot of fun hanging out with their Papi 🙂

Finally, food! Seitan Reuben with sauerkraut and secret sauce- yum! I actually asked for an extra side of sauce because the seitan was a teensy bit too dry for me, but on the whole it was pretty outrageous. The sauce was creamy and delicious but light, and the fries had the perfect crispy/creamy exterior-interior combination.

Luis got a burger, which he said was very good. They also had a huge beer selection and a bottle shop, and our waitress told us that on the weekends they serve brunch.

It felt so good to go out someplace and have everyone feel like they had plenty of delicious options to choose from. I’m hoping that this is a trend, and that more restaurants start incorporating vegan dishes into their menus. One good vegan dish can make all the difference- for example, my favorite restaurant here in Newtown is Isaac Newton’s. They have a killer veggie chili (although my Mum is not a fan), and it keeps me coming back again and again. That, and it’s the best bar ever. If they didn’t have that chili, I doubt I’d ever eat there. By offering that one item that isn’t a bean burger or salad, they are guaranteed my business.

In all, Local 44 definitely warrants a return trip. I am eager to test out their brunch- they have a pinto “sausage” sandwich that sounds tasty!

If you just came for the review, feel free to stop here. For those of you who want to read about the rest of our day in Philly, join me at the Rocky statue!

This detour was at Luis’ request- but I didn’t mind. Something about the Art Museum and the steps warms me. I grew up watching Rocky, and even though it’s totally goofy and ridiculous, it still feels really good to run up those steps! Maybe it’s the view from the top…

Truth: after being an angel through an insanely long, hot day, Jack actually wanted to walk up the steps (with Luis holding his hand). I don’t know where he gets it (well, I might have some idea…). Carolyn was in my arms, so she and I went up at my breakneck speed and waited for the boys.

It was so cute watching them climb together.

This guy. He looked like the champion of the world when he got to the top, and I was so proud of him. It is interesting to me that Jack can, at his age, appreciate a stunning view like the one at the top of those stairs. A few times now I have stopped to look at something spectacular, like the rolling countryside in back-areas of Bucks County, and I will find Jack just as mesmerized as I am. He’ll let out an “Oooooh!” or a “Woah!” and I want to burst. I love that he and Carolyn are growing up appreciating all of the breathtaking scenery that surrounds them.

The obligatory footprint picture. I must have a hundred of these, and it just never gets old. Rocky and I are the same shoe size.

The stairs are actually a great place to end a run or get a workout in. I love watching people (athletes and tourists alike) run up. Honestly, after this picture was taken, I slipped off my shoes and ran up the stairs a second time (barefoot!) while Luis stayed with J & C at the bottom. I couldn’t help myself- I am officially in love with moving my body.

I don’t think I’m alone in that 🙂 Speaking of running, I couldn’t help but remember this area as it was just a few short weeks ago

doused in color madness! I still can’t believe that’s where it all went down. It feels as surreal as it did heading up that final hill and seeing the museum, and all of the people covered in color. Philadelphia is definitely a place of happy memories for me, and I am really enjoying planning weekday trips in with the kids. I am looking forward to exploring University City and the surrounding area more, and creating a solid network of people and activities there.

Until next time!

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